The making of Orcs Must Die! Games
Hello CGHUB, I’m David Kubalak, and I’m an art director at Robot Entertainment. We have an art department of about 18 people, many of whom frequent CGHUB, so I thought I would go through the visual development processes for Orcs Must Die!
During the preproduction stage, we determined that the game would take place in a fantasy setting and that the gameplay would mix the strategy elements from the tower-defense genre with the 3rd-person combat of an action game. From the early discussions about the game, we knew it would be based around a variety of enemies and monster types, and we wanted to keep them pretty recognizable, so we stuck with ogres, orcs, goblins, and kobolds. Take a look at some of the initial concepts.
We knew we wanted an arcade-type title in the 15-dollar range, but we never wanted to hold back on the production values. We set out to build a couple of creatures, a playable character, and some environment objects, all of which were done in stunning detail in zBrush before being brought into the game engine. We created some initial dungeon scenes, and we really liked the direction the game was going visually.
But at the same time, we were also making really good strides on the gameplay. The game was revolving around traps that you would construct, and the chaos and absolute destruction of orcs and other baddies that were trying to invade your fortresses. The entire art department started brainstorming ideas for traps. We explored things like a cardboard cutout of your mage with bombs behind him; blades shooting out of the wall, exploding several orcs into a shower of blood and giblets; and spring traps that send guys ragdolling through the air. All of these ideas had us taking a lighter approach to the game, and then had us thinking if we should do the same with the look and the tone.
What was good about this adjustment is that our artists were still able to take the base models that were done for the previous vision of the game and exaggerate the proportions for our new models. This allowed us to go through our enemy lineup pretty quickly and get stuff in the game. Check out some of our revised creature concepts and the evolution of the Ogre.
All of the supporting content was really taking form and had a great personality of its own, and it was time to focus on our main character, the WarMage. The tone of the game was not taking itself too seriously, and we found a lot of inspiration for our main character from movies like Army of Darkness and Big Trouble in Little China. I think that we did a great job of making our WarMage character come to life.
Special effects and animations were a huge part that we didn’t want to neglect in OMD. I think that the game truly benefited from the attention that we paid to these areas. A lot of the character, tone, and cool factor is due to the FX work and all the animations.
The UI was another area that we took time to make just right. We really wanted to amp up the arcade feel of the gameplay, so adding notifications like ‘Headshot!’ and ‘Kill Streaks’ really helped make it feel ‘gamey’. We put some extra time and polish into the portraits for the cards and load screens between levels to take our game to the next level. I think that it paid off in the end for sure!
I’m really proud of all the work that we did on this game over the past year… and it wasn’t all just for the game itself. We put up content for the website and did over a dozen key art images to use to help promote the game. One of these images was chosen for the Into the Pixel 2011 awards. We also did a comic book that we gave away at the Penny Arcade Expo and the San Diego Comic Con, not to mention a variety of designs for Orcs Must Die! merchandise and apparel. It’s an incredible amount of work over such a short amount of time.
I hope you guys enjoyed this look back on our journey getting this game wrapped up.
Orcs Must Die! is out now on xBox Live Arcade and Steam; go check it out.